My bias up front: I was once an avid fan of social media. For a time, I was an active Face Cadet, but I soon concluded it was a shallow relationship experience and a huge waste of time. So, I’m now off the social media grid.
A festering suspicion I’ve had is that social media interaction has an effect somewhat perversely the opposite of the theory; namely, decreased meaning, depth and satisfaction in relationships. (Ironically perhaps, until recently, I had a friend, not entirely from the digital space, but mostly, with whom I had such a profound difference of opinion about the value of social media, that we no longer speak.)
Speaking only of my own experience, I felt the ease of connection, coupled with the lack of any expected expenditure of effort to maintain relationships would have the effect of de-valuing the entire notion of what constitutes a “relationship”.
I’ve just dived into Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together (Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other). The initial tone is not optimistic. It is perhaps one of those unintended consequence situations of the highest order. Turkle puts it this way in the preface to the book: “Relentless connection leads to a new solitude”. She also notes a growing dynamic to “commoditize” relationships in the social space.
It might turn out the relentless intensification of all things commercial will eventually remove the sense that one is even approximating “relating” in that space, any more than, say, running into an acquaintances at the mall. Time will tell.
As a side note, I recently watched “The Social Network”. If there’s any reality to the story, it’s ironic indeed that the founder of Facebook was something of a field trip in the plethora of vacant relationships he cultivated. It perhaps makes the vacancy dynamic of the F-Book somewhat understandable.